Half, Half and Half
The Legend of the Skeleton Key
The Legend of the Skeleton Key
Once, when the world was very young and people were bolder and braver, a young couple fell in love. Those were harsh days and the land was rough. The boy, Pades, was a poor farm boy. His parents lived outside a small village whose name is lost to the Barbarian Wars. They raised grain for selling at market and cows and goats to sustain themselves. The girl, Iddia, was the daughter of a travelling merchant- a trade much less dangerous then. Her mother was a seamstress who made a small living on the side while her husband was away on caravan.
It came to be that young Pades met Iddia at the wedding festival of the mayor’s daughter. It was a six day celebration unlike anything the little town had seen before, even the Harvest Moon festival never lasted that long. On the third day, when the twentieth cask of wine ran out, Pades was asked to fetch and open the twenty-first along with a few older boys. Iddia’s father, Cydarr, was put in charge of the wine, as he did not partake in that most regrettable of man’s pleasures. It was just dusk when the older boys made Pades knock on the door and ask for the wine. Iddia, who had gone home to change her dress after a passerby spilled wine on her previous one, answered the door.
From the moment young Pades laid eyes upon Iddia’s fair face and auburn hair, a chord was struck in him. He saw in her golden eyes a future unfold around him and a life full of love and wealth of the heart. And Iddia too felt the instantaneous bolt of lightning root her to the spot. Within his deep blue eyes she felt the earth move under her feet and saw the hills of the west parting for their love. As her father called for her in the house, Pades extended his hand and as she took it, swept her into his arms. The mayor’s daughter’s wedding never received the twenty-first cask and thus today when numbering casks of wine, winemakers sometimes leave the twenty-first barrel out for the couple as a token of respect and a hopeful blessing of good wine.
The couple ran from the town they grew up in, following the footsteps of the stars reflected in each other’s eyes. When they reached the next town they found a priestess of Pelor who agreed to marry them. After that, they traveled around the country, bringing joy to everyone they met. One day, they arrived in a city on a peninsula with steep cliffs that dropped into the sea. There, they met an old woman who had done and seen much. Her wise old eyes saw into their hearts which were filled with selfless love for the other. She became sad for them then as her eyes saw too deep. Iddia saw the old woman’s sadness and asked her why she wept.
“My child,” she cried “Your hearts are so full of each other.
Your love is truer than any the world has seen before you.
You live every day in bliss. But my children, everything comes
With a price.” She wailed then, a loud, mournful sound.
“You, my dear girl, the gods will take you early. Watch
For the crow on the morn a year after your wedding day.”
Then, feeling horrible for telling the poor young lovers what she saw, she died. Overcome with anger and fear, Pades took Iddia into his arms and cursed the old woman’s body. He vowed that they should grow old together and that he would kill every crow he saw so that the sign might never have the chance to manifest. Iddia tried to calm his rage, she said that even if they only ever had one year together, that it would be the best year of her life, so far as to take up all the time of a life. She lived like she never thought she would with him. In the end, she calmed Pades and they were able to continue on their journey.
The months passed in happiness and merriment. Everywhere they went people remembered their names and before long they were known from the shores of the Amthyst Ocean all the way to the southern stony tip of Dragon’s Mouth Bay. Yet, all the while Pades counted the days. Eleven moons passed since their wedding night and Pades grew nervous. He didn’t want to lose the love of his life and the person that so easily captured his heart. In private, he found a wizard’s college and inquired about any sort of magical item that could possibly save his love from fate. After a painstaking week, the headmaster could find no such magic. Pades left with a heavy heart and little time left.
On the morn marking a year since their vows in the presence of Pelor, Pades woke early to hunt every single crow he could find, making good on his vow to the old woman. Yet, when Iddia woke, Pades was not by her side. This was the first morning that Pades had not been by her side. Frightened without him and knowing that this was the day the old woman spoke of, Iddia panicked. She ran out of the house they were staying in, calling his name. She ran all over town looking, growing more and more hysterical by the moment. In the woods where Pades had collected the birds, he heard her shrieks and ran to meet her, fearing the worst. Iddia had run so hard and the fear had built up so high that when she saw Pades crest the hill on the far side of town carrying a dead crow, her bubble of fear burst. But the relief she felt was much too short as her heart burst with it. Iddia collapsed onto the grass, a smile for her love upon her face. Pades ran to her, trying to get to her before she hit the ground but was too late. Horror marked his face, and bone shattering grief scarred his heart. As he dropped to her side he let go of the crow he carried and sobbed into her auburn hair.
The townspeople feared for Pades sake, of having the love of his life ripped so cruelly from him. He didn’t leave her side until they lowered her coffin into the ground. But as the gravediggers began to fill the hole with dirt, Pades leapt down next to the coffin and refused to leave her side. After two days, the mayor hired the stoneworkers to build Iddia a mausoleum to try and give both of them peace. He also found a master locksmith to create and unpick-able lock as a safeguard for Pades; so he wouldn’t break in and die with her. After five days of long hard work, the tomb was finally finished.
Years passed. Everyday Pades would sit outside Iddia’s tomb and wait. Some days he went and visited the master locksmith to beg him to open the tomb. The locksmith always declined him but invited him to dinner, perhaps as a way to make sure Pades was taken care of or perhaps because he felt guilty for keeping Pades from what he wanted most. After a few years, Pades inherited his parents land and went to work once again in the fields, simply passing the time.
Eventually, the master locksmith passed away, for he was an old man already when the mayor asked him to make the unpick-able lock. With the locksmith’s passing, so too did Pades’ hopes of ever rejoining his love in this life pass away. Decades then passed and the world grew darker. War threatened to break at any moment and chaos was just a fingertip away. It was in these dark times that hope emerged in the form of a hero. The hero was said to be able to do anything and was very kind hearted. With these rumors in mind, Pades gathered all the money he had saved through the years and journeyed to where the hero lived.
The hero was a big man with many weapons and talents. He had a collection of artifacts that amazed Pades. The man was easy going and happy to help Pades, especially after he learned who Pades was. The hero had heard many tales of the beautiful couple and the tragedy that befell them. The pair traveled back to the town and they were greeted with a huge celebration. The celebration was even larger than the one held for the wedding of the mayor’s daughter all those years ago. And with such a celebration, there was much wine and much drinking. The hero, feeling bold and tough, entered into a few too many drinking contests and became so drunk he could hardly walk. He decided that this moment would be good to try and pick the lock on Iddia’s tomb for Pades. But, since he was so drunk and the lock was unpick-able, the hero failed miserably and became angry and frustrated. He berated Pades in front of the whole town for being a cruel man who caused the death of the woman who loved him and for making a fool out of the hero, saying that he knew the hero would fail all along and only wanted to humiliate him. Pades was full of sadness upon hearing those words and returned home, his grief of Iddia’s death renewed in him. In the morning, he awoke to a parcel on his doorstep. The hero had left him a large chunk of ivory and a note of apology for the way he acted and the words he said the night before. It was small compensation for the hurt he felt at the hero’s words and the money he spent on travel.
Again, years passed and Pades grew older. He could no longer work in his field so he sold the farm and built a small house on the hill overlooking the cemetery where Iddia was buried. In the days, he taught himself how to carve figures out of wood and made many small animals and people out of wood to pass the time. Then, as he was carving, he thought that maybe he could carve a key from the wood that would work with the lock. The lock after all was unpick-able, but wouldn’t the lock have a key just as any other? With his small knife in hand, Pades carved a key from wood. At sunset, he put the key into the lock and immediately it snapped the key in half. He tried a different pattern but got the same result. He made a hundred keys before he was able to turn the key even a little. A hundred more and Pades had a rough idea of the shape that the key should be. Finally, after two years of hard work, Pades’ hands shook with age and his vision was cloudy but he knew the shape. He put the wooden key into the lock and turned it all the way. Yet, the door stood locked. There was no sound, no movement. The door would not budge. Defeated, Pades returned to his small hut and locked the door. He looked for a piece of rope to end his life but he had little in his possession save hundreds of broken wooden keys, a few wooden miniatures, his carving knife, and a hunk of ivory.
With nothing more to live for, Pades began to sob and cry out Iddia’s name. In one short night, she came to him then. She held his hand and they relived their year together. He remembered everything in crisp detail, as if he were reading it from a book. He could feel every kiss, hear every word from her sweet lips and feel the ground moving beneath his young feet. As the morning sun rose, he saw that through the night his hands had carved the ivory into a key with many teeth. He knew that the key would open the lock now, after so many years. He could be with his love again. But now, after feeling that love again, he no longer needed it. With joy and the promise of another fuller life together, Pades lie down on his bed with the key between his hands and fell into the sleep of eternity. Those who found Pades say that he died with a smile on his face and that the sweet laughter of a young girl could be heard coming from the cemetery.
This was the only known location of the so-called “Skeleton Key” though there are many legends which come after this one that tell of a young boy who shows up with the key in moments when it is truly needed. There are other legends which tell of a priest of the Raven Queen in possession of the key for safe keeping as a relic of love and act of respect for the dead. None of these legends are verifiable of course as time has its way with memory and written history. But, as with all things, the stories of those before pave the way for the stories of those to come.
The Properties of the Skeleton Key
The key is said to open any lock just by touching the outside of the lock. Users have said that the lock rearranges itself to accommodate the key. This process is reportedly quick but makes a series of clicking sounds which is less than ideal for thieves needing to be silent. There is another rumor that states that the key will only work for those who have previously been in love or are currently in love, or for those who have good intentions for opening the lock. This seems to hold true as there are no written or otherwise accounts of Master Thieves, serial killers, or any other ilk achieving their vile dreams with an ivory key. Mostly, it is known that this key does most of the work opening the lock. Prolonged use of the Skeleton Key does not make the user any more proficient at opening locked doors.